Impressions of Medellín & Guatapé

Medellín was definitely a cool place to be. A huge and busy city situated nicely in a picturesque valley 1500m high in the Andes. It provides a perfect temperature the whole year through. Sunny and hot in the day and comfortably cooler at night, so very different to Santa Marta’s humid heat. And with its recent scary history – does it ring a bell? Pablo Escobar, Narcos, Medellín cartel, it was kind of scary exciting to explore. In the 90s the city was even called the murder capital of the world 😱.

Our first day in Medellín, August 23, 2022

We arrived early in the morning and were lucky to be already allowed in our fancy airbnb apartment. So we had the whole day for exploring. Already our “barrio”, neighbourhood “El Poblado” was worth visiting. It was a beautiful area of shady streets with a solid café culture and a big range of different types of international food options and …sex shops, hahaha. An upscale barrio but for sure not representing a typical Colombian neighbourhood. After a quick breakfast we jumped into the very modern metro and headed to our first stop the botanical garden. Stretched across 14 hectares, Jardín Botánico is a wonderful natural escape for the people of Medellín in easy reach. With a huge amount of different living plant species and many, many different butterflies. It was a nice start to get to know Medellín.

Next stop: Plaza Botero and Palacio de la Cultura Rafael Uribe Uribe

Plaza De Botero was a must see with its many sculptures and buzzling surroundings and was conveniently located in the heart of the city. Actually it was an outside museum with 23 sculptures of Maestro Fernando Botero. The renowned Colombian artist donated these bronze sculptures to the city of Medellin. Very impressive! I tried to find words to describe these sculptures. Here is what came into my mind: full-figured, big-boned, chubby, voluptuous. Any more ideas?
Equally interesting for us was the dazzling structure of Palacio de La Cultura Rafael Uribe Uribe. It was a Gothic-style museum full of art, history, and culture, which we visited just by chance. Afterwards I read that the palace is a national monument of Colombia and that seemed to be the reason why it was free for the public to access! Nice! Btw, the Palace got its name from the famous Colombian journalist Rafael Uribe Uribe. He has had several buildings, neighbourhoods and sculptures named after him due to his services to the people of Colombia.

Second day, Comuna trece

Here some information about the Comuna 13, which I thought were very interesting to know about:

“For years, Medellin was the most dangerous city in the world. Between Pablo Escobar and the drug cartels vying for control and the military attempting to control them. To leftist revolutionary guerrillas and the privately funded right-wing paramilitary groups locked in conflict. Car bombs, shootings, kidnappings and outright war were commonplace in the region. While the city itself stood amongst the most violent on earth, until as recently as 2010; one neighbourhood in particular ranked deadliest of all. The neighbourhood of San Javier, commonly referred to as Comuna 13, Medellin.
After decades of turmoil, calm began to spread throughout the country. A city once plagued with violence and terror began to see light. Following a horrific few days in 2002, when a military operation to remove the militias from the Comuna ended with mass civilian casualties, the residents had enough.
While the left-wing rebels had been evicted, the far-right paramilitary groups moved in. The worst had passed, but another decade would pass before anything could reach a relative normal.
The youth of the neighbourhood took action in their own ways. Rather than falling into the tempting world of gang life, many focused their energy in the form of art. Music and graffiti replaced the sounds of gunfire and cracked brick walls. Guns and violence were slowly replaced by spray cans and street performance.
While the youth rebelled, the gangs held their ground. The violence and killings continued.
The city itself poured money into Comuna 13 in hopes of revitalising the former war zone. An additional metro-cable line was added from San Javier station to provide access to the northern hillsides surrounding the area. A few years later, modern, open-air escalators were built to help locals reach the city centre without climbing hundreds of stairs upon their return.
For the first time in history, residents of San Javier no longer felt alienated by the city they once couldn’t call home. Job opportunities within the city centre suddenly became a reality for thousands of residents, who until then, lived in poverty. While these measures were by no means an overnight solution, the doors were now wide open.”

a rapper making new lyrics with words we gave him

The third day we took a nice bicycle tour starting in the afternoon

We started and ended in the area of San Joaquin, had several stops and lots of explanation by our tour guides and headed up to “Pueblito Paisa”. Pueblito Paisa is a replica of a traditional Antioquian town that was built in honor of the region’s rich heritage. It was located on a small, green hill area beside the Medellín River called the Cerro Nutibara. We were keen on going up there because the view was supposed to be amazing. It was already dark when we arrived up there but we still got a great view of Medellín’s sprawling barrio.

we were impressed that Medellín had quite some bicycle roads

Day 4, a day trip to Guatapé

Being exhausted from all the walking and exploring of the big city the last days, we booked a day trip to Guatapé. A pretty little village about two hours drive east of Medellín. Guatapé was known for its colourful streets and pleasant squares with many restaurants and shops. That was true and nice. We liked being proper tourists and not having to think about what to visit next. Everything was organised, even the food, a river tour and the visit to the rock “El Peñon”. We had our time schedule and were not allowed to be late! If not – punishment! No problem for us – being German😁. I really enjoyed that tour apart from going up 700 stairs at El Peñon. Yeah, the view was nice but I wasn’t sure if it was worth the effort…

Day 5, Arvi park

Arvi park is a gigantic green oasis only 30 km from the centre of the city Medellín.  It was easily reachable with the metro cable. As the park was located on a plateau between 2,200 and 2,600 metres above sea level it was a great cool place to hike. Though the best part for us was getting there with the metro cable. The view was amazing and we couldn’t believe how big the park was. The first 8 min or so we were lifted up to the top and then it took another 8 min over the big trees to finally reach the station. Such a cool ride!!! Being limited in our time as our flight back to Santa Marta was that evening, we only could take a short walk. Nevertheless we thought let’s just get into the woods. When we were turning at a junction to enter the woods we were stopped by a local. He made himself clear with pretending to have a pump gun that, if we would go further on our own, the chances being robbed or even shot were very high. Guerrillas were still occupying that area 😱. We thanked him for letting us know and chose the path which was recommended…

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